Tag Archives: Heather Langenkamp

35 Years of Freddy: A Clawed Imprint On An Entire Generation

The year was 1984.  The very first commercial for the revolutionary Apple Computer premiered at the beginning of the year, foreshadowing an irreversible change in the way we live for an entire generation. While one can argue this may very well be, the most significant moment in ’84, (or hell an entire decade), most horror fans may dispute that. 35 years ago today, one of horror’s biggest icons was born from the mind of the late Wes Craven-Freddy Krueger. Robert Englund gave him a body, Craven the brain- see what I did there- and unleashed Freddy Fever unto Generation Y that shows no signs of slowing up all these years later.

Of course, there hasn’t been a relevant enough bootleg Freddy toy to catch my attention over the last 20 years. But, maybe that’s for the best, yeah?

35 Years of Freddy: A Clawed Imprint On An Entire Generation

While I can’t speak for every single child of the ’80s, Freddy Fever rose high and rampant over the course of a decade, introducing an entire generation to the horror genre due to the Springwood’s Slasher popularity. Nancy said it best, “Every kid knows who he is. He’s like Santa Claus.” 

35 Years of Freddy: A Clawed Imprint On An Entire Generation

And even celebrated much more so by the horror fandom than the generous, jolly ol’ dude. With on-screen heroes emerging in the decade like Indiana Jones, Rambo, and pretty much any Arnold Schwarzenegger film, Freddy rose to the ranks of a hero of a generation of horror movie fans by being nothing more than the ethos of pure evil- well with later added slapstick comedy which only BOOSTED all the diehard FredHeads (myself included) to put him on a higher pedestal; rounding out the Holy Horror Slasher Trinity with his buddies Michal and Jason.

I mean, you’ve really made it when MTV (when it was you know, amazing) lets you VJ and just end up doing whatever the fuck you want. That’s some star power.

*upload by Jared Bruni

 

All that being said, WHAT exactly had the youth of our generation so insanely captivated by well, a brutal child-killer? I can only speculate on watching Freddymania evolve throughout the ’80s, ’90s, to today’s hardcore fanbase that follows Freddy and Friends to the ends of the Earth via social media and horror conventions (I’m totally one of those people), and speaking with fellow FredHead buddies. And the answers are pretty quite simple: The children are the warriors of this horror franchise. They are the ones who recognize the evil while the adults stand around with their thumbs up their asses. THEY are the ones who stand together, (just look at Dream Warriors) and face their enemy head-on. So it’s only natural an adolescent would gravitate towards something they could possibly relate to. Society is often guilty of not listening to our youth and A Nightmare On Elm Street made that loud and clear folks.

Another reason and this is personally true in my case being a female, is that each of the NOES films gave us the absolute, most ass-kicking heroines that any young girl would be proud to look up to. First off, let’s just get this right out of the way- Nancy is the goddamn Queen. Even though it was quite clear that she was slowly getting edgier as the film progressed- to be fair she was working on a week’s worth of almost no sleep while Fred was trying to murder her– she really had the most logical and sturdy head out of EVERYONE in that entire film. Including her parents. Not to mention she went full Rambo on Krueger’s ass. I’m not going to sit here and try and argue how she managed to set all those booby traps, fall asleep, and capture Freddy all in twenty minutes film-time. Let’s just appreciate the fact that this girl went balls to the wall, going as far as tackling her predator to the ground WWF style in one giant FUCK YOU to his face. And then she turns her back on him and calls him “shit”.

Goddamn. GIRL FUCKING POWER.

35 Years of Freddy: A Clawed Imprint On An Entire Generation

 

Last but not least, A Nightmare On Elm Street has always been seen by me as a “comfort horror film”. A few years back, I wrote an article over on Bloody Disgusting on how horror films actually soothe my anxiety. And the NOES films are exactly that for me. Comfort in times of stress and the harsh realities of the real world. I refer to films like these in a term I coined, “FANTASTICAL HORROR”. You see, movies like Halloween and Friday the 13th (only the first, after that they became FANTASTICAL), were very much real to me. THAT SHIT COULD ACTUALLY HAPPEN. It’s very plausible an escaped lunatic could go on a killing spree or a deranged childless mother going apeshit on a group of kids. With NOES, mehhhhhhhhh, highly doubt a burnt-faced demon is gonna kill me in my dreams. Not to say one could never die in their sleep, or to take away the fact the movie really is terrifying in other aspects. BUT, it’s not realistic to me. And that’s ok! In times of real-world tragedies, shitty adult issues, and when the world seems so ugly that you want to pack up and move to Mars, Freddy and the gang are here. To take us to DreamLand. To a place that takes us out of reality and into the world of Fantastical Horror.

You know, kinda like Harry Potter but cooler. Don’t you Hogwarts fans @ me.

Happy 35th Freddy and the gang. And to all my fellow sons and daughters of 100 maniacs who keep the fandom of this movie as strong as ever. WE all his children-now and forever.

 

35 Years of Freddy: A Clawed Imprint On An Entire Generation

 

Why The Rise of Leslie Vernon is a Transcendent Slasher

Look, we can talk about a clever mockumentary, the smile-inducing horror references, Kane Hodder’s cameo, Robert Englund as Dr. Loomis by way of the Overlook Hotel, humorous lines like scaring the “pooooop” out of someone, or that Leslie Vernon’s mannerisms and mask were truly unsettling, but that would be missing the greater point of Behind the Mask.

What set this film apart was its depth, which extended beyond Nathan Baesel’s indisputably brilliant performance, the palpably conflicted emotion of Angela Goethals, or authenticity that forever accompanies Scott Wilson. Three scenes ventured into territory that elevated The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2006) to a stratosphere that few slasher films have ever reached.

Within that horror subgenre, audiences adore atmosphere and kills and humor, but few delve into the humanity of a character. That is truly rare. Sure, it’s happened before, we can’t disregard the depth of character and performance provided by Heather Langenkamp in A Nightmare on Elm Street or Neve Campbell in Scream, or the fact that we are likely to be served a heaping helping of it come October when Jamie Lee Curtis reprises her role as Laurie Strode in Halloween (2018). However, the script pieced together by Scott Glosserman (who also directed) and David J. Stieve, coupled with Baesel’s performance, created a true masterpiece.

Three scenes separate Behind the Mask from the field, but they have nothing to do with kills or gore or one-liners printed on tee shirts, and everything to do with writing, acting and cinematography.

giphyTo begin, we all recognize those moments when we fall in love with a picture. Sometimes it occurs to us as we’re watching, others as we later reflect upon what we’d just witnessed, but the common denominator is one scene where we completely succumb to what is being presented on-screen. For this writer and this film, dinner at Eugene (Wilson) and Jamie’s (Bridgett Newton) fulfilled that romantic moment, simply because of its subtlety and camera work.

This was not a typical get-to-know the characters scene where we are overwhelmed with dialogue intended to convey the notion that “these guys are edgy and cool,” there was no grand monologue about a hidden world we were unaware existed, but rather a gathering of friends, old and new, that felt real – it was believable. Eugene was sharing his thoughts on the way things used to be in the game of creating an evil counterbalance to the world’s good as he chopped carrots for the meal to come. As he went on, he got lost in his thoughts, and past work began to come back to him as he knifed the vegetables with a ferocity that left Taylor Gentry (Goethals) uncomfortable, before he finally slammed the blade into the cutting board that resulted in a yelp from the student filmmaker. Jaron Presant (director of photography) made the decision to film Goethals’ reaction in a close-up of her left profile to showcase how Taylor was now completely immersed in this world, and it was all happening so fast that she couldn’t process it. What made the scene, though, was Baesel’s reaction over her right shoulder. What began as a smirk, turned to a hand over his mouth to stifle laughter, and finally to a glance at Eugene before he covered his eyes because even he thought — this was too much, too soon — and Taylor wasn’t prepared for what she’d just seen because she had yet to grasp the concept of why Leslie and Eugene did what they did.

It wasn’t overt, Glosserman’s direction and Presant’s angle didn’t force feed the audience, they just presented it for what it was, then quickly moved on. It’s rare for a scene to work so well in the slasher genre, to feel so authentic, as though a hidden camera were in the room and we laid eyes on an intimate moment never intended to be seen. And it worked. We felt the fear and the humor, and connected to the humanity of Leslie and Tay.

Which brings us to the most pivotal scene of the film, outside the diner after Taylor had attempted to speak to Leslie’s intended target despite his explicit instruction that Kelly (Kate Miner) was off limits to her documentary.

BTM RenoLeaning against the crew’s van, Leslie asked “You wanna just pretend that we’ve already had the conversation we’re about to have?” Taylor was only able to respond “Leslie” before Vernon grabbed and pulled her alongside the vehicle to ask that she not ruin his life’s work. Presant’s utilization of hand-held cameras, from behind the pair and within the van, communicates Leslie’s instability at this betrayal, as Taylor challenges him not only about Doc Halloran (Englund), but who Vernon really is, before the man who to that point had seemed a bit awkward and giddy turned in a moment. Until that turn, Taylor (and the audience) knew that Leslie was a slasher, but because of his goofy, yet likable persona, didn’t comprehend how dangerous he really was. When Tay brought Reno, Nevada into the equation, however, we discovered first hand that Vernon was not to be trifled with, and in a heartbeat he’d pinned Taylor against the van by the throat. Presant’s cameras once again closed in, highlighting the terror and tears in Taylor’s eyes, and Leslie’s intensity. Hesitating to collect his thoughts, Vernon shared that he would tell her everything that she needed to know, and never broke eye contact as he opened the van door and asked her to please get inside.

The best actors speak with their eyes, and Baesel is next level in that regard. At a glance, one feels his euphoria and confusion and thought process, and in this case, seething anger. Baesel thinks before he speaks, lending authenticity to every line reading, because they feel as though they just came to him before he opened his mouth. In a moment, Leslie Vernon was no longer the quirky guy who wanted to be something that he didn’t appear capable of, transformed into a cold-blooded killer whose mood could turn on a dime.

Immediately after this scene was filmed, Englund took Baesel aside and told him that he reminded him of a young Anthony Perkins, which immediately conjured thoughts of something Langenkamp shared in an interview with this writer years ago. She had mentioned that Englund seemed to be all-knowing, completely in tune with everything around him – literature, music, restaurants, cinema – an assertion cemented with his Perkins sentiment, because that observation was as spot-on as it gets.

BTM That LookFinally, before the events transpired to bring Behind the Mask to a close, Leslie and Taylor shared a calm before the storm moment that Vernon described as his “Christmas.” With the absence of music or sound of any kind, Leslie admitted “I’m so happy.” This was the truest peek behind the curtain at what made a killer tick, as he laid bare his soul, hyper-focused on where he was in his life at that precise moment. Vernon was not just a man who was good at his job, but felt fortunate to be doing it, and broke down at the realization that not everyone was so lucky in life. It’s a moment that we can all relate to, particularly when we share it with someone to whom we have a profound connection, as Leslie did to Taylor. And refusing to break with the theme of the film, Taylor wanted to comfort Vernon, but didn’t make it so far as to put her hand on his shoulder, or hug him, or hold his hand. Despite her affection for Vernon, she still didn’t fully comprehend who he was. That her character stayed true is what made the scene work – even in the happiest moment of his life – Leslie was essentially alone.

And the beauty of the scene was again about the collaboration of Glosserman and Baesel, who had been wandering the grounds in preparation for said scene, which had originally been intended to be lighthearted and funny, featuring the gleeful, excited Vernon we’d seen so much of throughout the film. However, Baesel had come to the realization that he was incredibly happy to be making a feature film that he believed in, doing work that he loved, and it was own feeling of good fortune that led him to the conclusion that Leslie would be having the same epiphany, and that perhaps that emotion would play better. Glosserman agreed to go for it, and Baesel’s talent, and the movie, soar because of it.

Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon is all the things previously stated – it’s clever and funny and gave us a truly worthy slasher villain – but it is so much more than that. The collective talents of Baesel, Glosserman, Goethals, Presant and Stieve produced a transcendent slasher that offered far more than kills and laughs, gifting the world of horror with a beauty and depth of humanity that translated to one shared emotion, love.

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